Two or three years ago, we set up a Local Ministry Group (LMG) in our United Benefice of three parishes. This is a requirement if someone wants to become a Locally Ordained Minister.One of our members soon came forward for this and after a gruelling 2 years, she is embarking on the third and last. She has practiced as a doctor for many years, and a few years ago trained to become a Councillor, in all sorts of disciplines, including bereavement.
A group of Bereavement Councillors was set up in the Upper Coquet valley a few years ago and this is gradually extending to cover more and more of North Northumberland, right up to Berwick.
I am a member of our LMG and it was mentioned about a year ago that there would be a chance of training anyone from this Benefice, if anyone was interested. Several thought about it but they have pulled out for the time-being for various personal reasons. It seems that I am the only one left in, currently. I have been waiting since then for a chance to be trained.
On Wednesday, the existing group were having a refresher day and I was invited.
I wonder what the ordinary person thinks is meant by Bereavement Counselling. I imagined it meant listening to people releasing their feelings, after losing someone close to them. Beyond that I did not know.
After the session on Wednesday, I realise that listening is very important but there is so much more. Not just what is done to help the person, (I hate the word client), but also how to start, finish, cope yourself, etc etc. We started with a session during which they went through things they had found good - like a genuine smile - and things they had found hard. The latter part threw up all sorts of things that made me realise how difficult it could be at times. The innitial listening is the 'easy' part if you can get them to really talk about the things that matter, that is!
After coffee, we split into 3's and fortunately were able to use 3 different spaces. The leader/facilitator floated between the groups, listening to how they were getting on.
Two chairs were placed facing each other, with a third to the side for the Observer. The other two were for the talker and the listener. Having been warned not to choose anything too recent, were asked to speak about a personal bereavement and I waa asked to go first. I decided to talk about my Mother who died 15 years ago. It was surprising how real this became for me once I was launched into my account - and very emotional. I had never talked about it but do think about it sometimes and I remembered it as if it was yesterday. It did seem a little strange at first to have the Observer there, but I soon forgot about her and talked directly to the listener, who kept very still and did not interrupt until near the end (we had had the 2 minute warning!) when she asked a question. At the end the Observer made her comments and we talked about it a bit. Then we played musical chairs and I was in the observers place. The trained councellor was the listener, so I was able to watch and observe her as she listened to a very traumatic story. I had to try to distance myself from that because my job was to comment on the Listener. This was good practice, because whilst taking it all in etc, one must keep oneslf one step removed when doing the real thing. Musical chairs again and I became the Listener. I got 'good marks' for body language and attention and non-interruption and the question I asked at the end!
We gathered again in the main room and shared a few things that had come out of the excersise, before eating the pooled lunch and chatting about holidays in France and India and other things to relieve our minds after quite a gruelling morning.
After lunch we revisited the problems, available facilities etc and lots of new things came up in the discussion. By this time, I had enough confidence to ask a few questions myself and even make a comment which hit a nail on the head!
By the time we broke up and headed for home, I was shattered! However the drive through the glorious Northumbrian countryside, in the only bit of sun of the day (week?) rested my mind and I was fine by the time all the young rang me to wish me a happy birthday.
Now it is decision time. I know that I would like to train further and take up this very worth while job. But I have questions to answer for myself. Will the time that I will have to be out be unfair on G? How much stress will this put on me, especially if I get a hard case? Will I be able to cope? And most important of all - these will be real human beings I will be trying to help and am I capable of doing a good job? It would be so easy to make matters worse, with the wrong comment or approach. I must talk to the trained Councellor, but she cannot make the decision.
Also I do not know when I will be able to get further training, and time, tide and old age wait for no man!
I will keep you posted!